Letters | May 13, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - May 13, 2011


Parking prosperity


For sometime I have felt that the employee parking invading our Professorville neighborhood was a direct form of subsidy to property owners who fail to provide parking for their tenants' employees and clients. Last week I read an article in one of the local papers in which one of the major Palo Alto commercial property owners was quoted on the value of parking to commercial success. He told the paper "Parking equals prosperity" in his support of a $50,000-per-space fee for off-site parking, a fee that helped build the now near-empty parking structures in downtown.

Other business uses in every city are required to provide parking, mostly on site, for the use of buildings, usually at a rate of at least 1/250 square feet for industrial and office, assuming four employees per 1,000 square feet of building area. With start-ups moving into many Palo Alto buildings and escalating rents of more than $5 per square foot per month, that employee density is increasing — suggesting the need for an even higher ratio of parking-to-floor area and more parking. Instead, the city accepts less and grants parking exceptions.

Where do most downtown employees park now? In Professorville — where from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. our streets have become Costco-like parking lots. We are subsidizing the commercial interests' prosperity with the quality of this neighborhood. Our neighborhood is also a National Register Historic Residential District where homeowners, but apparently not others, need to follow preservation rules to preserve its character.

Are the commercial owners open to paying us $50,000 per space? I could use the money this developer seems willing to pay to maintain his "prosperity."

I'd rather restore and preserve the intrinsic value and character of this neighborhood by getting employee parking out of here and back to the commercial districts where it belongs.

Ken Alsman

Ramona Street

Palo Alto

Caltrain funding


I am one of many community members who implored the Caltrain board not to cut the service of its trains and was delighted when it recently approved a plan to keep them running with no station or service cuts. But, unfortunately, Caltrain's underlying funding isn't stable. Every year it needs to ask three counties and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to cobble together funding, and must balance its budget with these one-time funds.

Caltrain is not only the backbone of transit on the Peninsula, it is also one of the best-performing services of its kind. However, its importance is not generally acknowledged even though it keeps 40,000 riders' cars off our freeways every day. The funding for this essential service is broken and if the cities on the Peninsula want to retain it, we must get off this yearly rollercoaster of repeated emergencies to provide it with long-term, stable funding.

I urge you to let your legislators, local businesses and friends know about Caltrain's dire financial straits and ask for their support as well as ideas for possible solutions.

Shirley Ingalls

San Ramon Avenue

Mountain View

Book misconceptions


Mr. Harrington's recent letter regarding the Mitchell Park Library is full of misconceptions and errors.

First, according to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales did increase 164.4 percent for year 2010 over 2009 from $166.9 million to $441.3 million. But 164.4 percent of little is still little. Hardcover book sales (not including K-16 textbooks) increased a modest 3.6 percent during the same period from $11.3 billion to $11.7 billion. Twenty five times the dollar volume of digital books. So e-book sales were only 3.6 percent of printed book sales last year. But even adult paperback sales for 2010 were $1.38 billion and adult hardcover sales slammed e-books at $1.58 billion; that's three to one. Higher education books sales for 2010 were $4.6 billion while K-12 were $3.6 billion; once again, many times e-book sales. Sadly and probably largely because of the iPad, only sales of children's books declined in 2010, but only by 5.7 percent to $694.3 million, still outselling all e-books almost two to one.

As for digital vs. print, try entering key word "climate" in worldcat.org. One gets 182,360 sources vetted by librarians. Of those, 75,000 are books while only 9,500 are e-books. There are 12,000 masters or PhD dissertations and of 65,000 articles, only 2,000 are downloadable and only 337 are e-journal articles. Two other points — the average school computer in the U.S. has 5.7 users, and Internet service fees for an iPad are much more than 200 a year.

So the facts indicate that print on paper books and journals will remain 20 to 30 times the volume of digital products for quite some time into the foreseeable future.

Michael M. Moore

Layne Court

Palo Alto

E-books not elitist


One doesn't know whether to laugh, or cry, at the May 6 letter from Alice Shaffer Smith, responding to a previous letter by John Harrington, commenting that Measure N was a mistake. While Harrington's points are well-reasoned, the brick-and-mortar library lover's logic wanders aimlessly, from aisle to aisle, in the fiction section.

The letter's author claims that Kindles, which hold hundreds of books, are elitist. Wonder what she would say to someone who has hundreds of paper books in his home? What's different about a private home library from a private Kindle library?

Her concerns about "paying for electricity" to power Kindles are unbelievable given Kindle's very low power use. Moreover, there are now solar re-chargers on the market, as well as WiFi power harvesters, for recharging cell phones, MP3 players and e-readers "off the grid."

If owning a Kindle, and buying books, is elitist, so must owning your own telephone, car and home be elitist, too.

It's easy to believe that within a few years, the new Measure N library complex will be standing empty — because everyone is using e-books, as well as the Internet to download movies and music.

There was a time that only the rich could own a lot of books. Thanks to Silicon Valley technology, now all of us can. Public libraries send the message that only government should own books, which is the wrong message for the 21st century.

Wayne Martin

Bryant Street

Palo Alto

More on e-books


Alice Schaffer Smith (Letters, May 6) says the "Kindle approach is elitist," and claims many benefits for print books:

They can be "savored, opened at random, read and reread." Ditto e-books.

"Libraries lead to browsing ... nearby shelves." Many more titles can be found browsing online than on shelves.

"The cost of library books is shared by the community." True regardless of format.

She also says, "... libraries provide a resource to all at a minimal cost." The library bond will cost taxpayers about $150 million (including interest) just for the buildings. Much of the space is for meeting rooms, not books.

Consider that cost (plus staff and maintenance) in light of Millbrae's book-lending kiosk at the BART station. Anyone with a library card can access one of 500 print books.

There was a time when print books were costly and elitist. There was a time when we had to go to a theater to watch movies. While I hope e-books never replace print, the world is moving to electronic media and our libraries need to catch up.

Pat Marriott

Oakhurst Avenue

Los Altos

Compost facts


Palo Alto voters signed petitions for the Palo Alto Green Energy and Compost Initiative because they believe the city should convert its waste streams into valuable products instead of exporting them to Gilroy.

However, Enid Pearson's "Rebuttal to Hays" letter of May 6 distorted facts in a way that is typical of opponents.

She states that the 10 acres to be undedicated by the initiative are the equivalent of "eight football fields." That ignores the fact that Byxbee Park would still contain 127 acres, the equivalent of 100 football fields. The park would hardly be destroyed.

She states that anaerobic digestion (AD) would cost the city "from $97 million to $167 million." However, the consultant acknowledged that critical factors that would save the city money were overlooked in the draft but will be included in the final feasibility study.

She claims the study will cost the city $1.6 million in lost tipping fees.

In fact, while the council temporarily suspended commercial acceptance of waste, there was no connection with the study.

She ignored the fact that exporting food and yard waste and continuing to incinerate biosolids would generate as much as 26,194 tons of greenhouse gases, more than twice as much as AD.

Finally, she falsely claimed that the undedicated land "can be used for any purpose the council determines," when in fact the Initiative would limit it to the exclusive purpose of converting waste, and also permit rededication if not so used in 10 years.

Walter Hays

Parkside Drive

Palo Alto

Calderon bad choice


I am a concerned member of the Bay Area community who is writing to express my deepest disappointment in the selection of Felipe Calderon for the 2011 Stanford commencement speech.

I read President Hennessey's quote about Calderon in the announcement of selection and am appalled that a man in his position could be so ignorant or care so little about actual people in favor of corrupt financial interests. There have been more than 40,000 killed in Calderon's supposed "drug war," which is not actually fighting anything other than for interests that are certainly not those of the Mexican people but only of all those who benefit from war.

The people of Mexico are speaking out against Calderon's war. They are marching all over the country, and he is willfully not listening. Hennessey claims his life has been devoted to improving society, but I know that the situation for Mexico's people is not improved by his presidency. This is without even considering the high likelihood of electoral fraud or the frightening attempts he has made to privatize Mexico's greatest resources, taking them away from the people and selling them to the highest bidder.

In short, I am saddened by Stanford's choice and hope that it will reevaluate the decision to disrespect all those who have died as a result of Calderon's war and all of their families by bestowing this honor on someone so undeserving.

Kate Agena

S. 33rd Street

San Jose


Posted by Carroll Harrington, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 13, 2011 at 10:42 am

Green gigabytes of gratitude to Walt Hays for his excellent letter to the editor.

Carroll Harrington
Melville Avenue
Palo Alto

Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 13, 2011 at 11:01 am

"Palo Alto voters signed petitions for the Palo Alto Green Energy and Compost Initiative because they believe the city should convert its waste streams into valuable products instead of exporting them to Gilroy."
Not necessarily true--they may have signed without really knowing what they were signing, given the methods used by the signature gatherers I saw at Piazzas.
ANyway, why is the initiative named as it is, if it is only to undedicate the parkland. Anyway,, the firefighters had plenty of signatures for their initiative and it was defeated by over 70& of the voters, so gathering signatures is not an indication of voter intent.
I still say we should decide on a method first and then have an election with two initiatives--one to undedicate the parkland and the other for the type of composting facility we will have.
Right now this election is a giant waste of money--but money has never been a concern for the person behind the initiative

Posted by Bryan Long, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm


There is not one person behind the initiative. There are many people (about a dozen) who were involved in getting the initiative started, and many more who subsequently got involved as active supporters. Keep to the facts, and argue the merits. This isn't one of those state initiatives backed by some big business who is going to profit by passage. It's a local initiative, put forth by well-meaning local individuals, none of whom are going to make any money on it. We think it will save the City, and hence all of us, a considerable amount of money. Maybe we are wrong, but at least we are involved as citizens seeking to do what is best for the community. Give your personal jealousies a rest.